The Astonishing Colour of After

If I were to walk up to you right now, and ask you to name a color that describes what you are feeling, what would it be?

I have often heard people use the phrase “color me…” and whatever emotion they were feeling would follow. This has always fascinated the artist in me – combining emotions and color, hearing how different people associated with colors. It emphasizes our uniqueness so much more obviously.

This novel was everything and more than I could ever dream of. My younger self would have absolutely thrived on this story (minus the death in the immediate family side) I strongly associated with Leigh. Fitting in at any age is a challenge. And trying to deal with things yourself, because of whatever strain you are afraid of placing on your relationship with your parents, has become a toxic playground for self esteem issues, depression and anxiety.

Trigger warning – depression, suicide/death of a family member and anxiety

Leigh’s story is an unique perspective on dealing with the loss of a family member through memories. This captivating tale is written from an artist perspective, rendering it unique and unconventional as far as typical storylines go. But just as viewing paintings, new depths are reached in every page, in every conflict point, in every bit of growth these characters go through.

Experience life through an artists eyes. The colourful and emotive language will have you reaching for the tissues at the end of this novel. This transformative storyline includes several cultural and language barriers being crossed in an attempt to heal from grief. Emphasizing that everyone grieves differently and making peace with the loss is a personal journey that you have to take on your own.

Like everything in this book, the writing style is unconventional, in the sense that flashbacks / memory triggers are used to convey the underlying theme of how several people can remember the same event differently and memories are a great part of making peace with your present. Bringing in a folklore aspect – ghost month – resulted in an amazing plot twist. I encourage you to be open minded when reading this book, respect the cultural significance of the story and enjoy the threads of the tapestry woven together in this masterpiece.

The building tempo represents main characters building anxiety throughout the book, increasing pace as it nears the end. The breaking point resulting in a perfect denouement, closing off with a beautiful ending that left me exhausted and with a serious book hangover.

This is a great book on being different, to find your “tribe” and seek out those who you are the most comfortable to be yourself around. The character development is subtly done, but very impactfully executed. Due to the flashback style of this novel, the leaps and bounds of growth can often be missed due to the perspective of the memories. You just have to look a little deeper.

This is a great read if you are feeling lost and alone – fans of sorcery of thorns looking for a more contemporary read will love this.


When Leigh’s mother dies by suicide she leaves only a scribbled note – I want you to remember.

Leigh doesn’t understand its meaning and wishes she could turn to her best friend, Axel – if only she hadn’t kissed him and changed everything between them.

Guided by a mysterious red bird, Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time. There, Leigh retreats into art and memories, where colours collide, the rules of reality are broken and the ghosts of the past refuse to rest …

But Leigh is determined to unlock her family’s secrets.

To remember.

About the Author

Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times bestselling author of THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize, longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and the recipient of the APALA Honor Award and the Walter Honor Award. The Wall Street Journal named it as one of the top twelve books of the season, and it was featured on over a dozen “Best of 2018” lists, including ones by NBC News, Entertainment Weekly, BuzzFeed, and Bustle. Emily currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She has been awarded residencies at Djerassi (2017) and Caldera (2019), and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology.

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